The Trouble With Self Help and Positive Thinking
“Acknowledging we have these different states is important because as you become aware of it, then you can adjust your behaviour and react.”
Here’s an episode of the Dreams Around The World podcast produced from this video, if you prefer listening:
The trouble with a lot of self help and personal development is it teaches us we can always be perfect. There is always a way to feel happy! Well, there isn’t. And when you believe there is, you end up creating a spiral of negative thought patterns for yourself. In this video, we will look at a different approach to tackling “bad days” and making the most of mood swings.
If you enjoyed this video, check out a lecture by Barbara Ehrenreich called smile or die which is also all about the problems with self help and positive thinking.
This video is especially true for NF types, including ENFP INFP INFJ and ENFJ. I’m an ENFP myself, and the topic for this video came up while chatting with a fellow NF.
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Now, when I say bad days, I mean those times when something comes up. Now, sometimes it’s tied just to mood, health, what we’re eating and sometimes it’s tied to a setback. So, for example, if you’re a freelancer and you wake up in the morning, you check your e-mail, which you should never do first thing in the morning, but let’s say you do, you check your email and there’s a client who hated your project. The night before, you submitted the draft to them, and they’re pissed. They don’t like it.
Well, that’s a setback and for a lot of us, that kind of setback can throw our mood off. Suddenly, we’re feeling down on ourselves, we’re feeling de-energized, we’re feeling demotivated, and those thoughts can start to spiral out of control. I know at least for myself, when I start to have those thoughts, they would continue and they would unfortunately grow. So, what would start as one setback would become me second-guessing my entire purpose of what I was doing.
Maybe I shouldn’t be a copywriter.
Maybe I don’t have what it takes.
Maybe, you know, this isn’t what I should do.
What would it have been like if I got a job?
Maybe you know, I shouldn’t be doing this.
Maybe I’m not cut out for this.
These thoughts can spiral and spiral, and I don’t want that to happen to you. So, I want to go through what I figured out can help stop this and keep you on track, and turn those bad days around.
Now, first of all, one of the things to think about is your mental state. Throughout the days and throughout the weeks, we have ups and downs in terms of how we feel about ourselves, like our energy levels, our confidence or just ability to focus.
During the good times, we’re able to deal with hardship. You know, if you’re feeling really jacked up and excited and motivated and great about yourself, and then you get a bad email from a client. It’s pretty easy to deal with that and say, “You know what, screw them, that’s their problem,” or “Hey, I screwed up. I’m going to fix it, I’m going to deal with it.”
But if you’re feeling really stressed and overwhelmed, then kind of beat down, it’s the end of the day, you’re out of energy, you’re out of willpower, and you see that e-mail. It’s pretty easy to get destroyed by it.
I had this experience recently, I was launching this new program of mine, and working really long hours and right in the cracks, right when I was feeling kind of the most stress and the most self-doubt like, “Is this going to work?” I had this kind of really negative comment that someone who should have been supportive shared it with me, and it totally sent me down, like for the next three hours, I was in a bad mood, and it rattled me. Same comment the next day wouldn’t have affected me, but in that moment, it did.
So, acknowledging that we have these different states is important because as you become aware of it, then you can adjust your behaviour and react. Here’s an example. If you know that you’re having a bad day, whatever happened, your energy’s down, you’re feeling down you’re second-guessing yourself. Don’t let that continue. Say to yourself, out loud if you need to, acknowledge it.
“Hey I’m off my game right now I’m not feeling on it. I’m not going to consider my life purpose today. This is not the time to decide what I should be doing with my life.”
Instead, take that time and focus on little things you can get done. I’m talking about chores, accounting, admin work, clearing out your emails, getting rid of newsletters. Not mine, keep my newsletters, they’re really awesome, but everyone else’s is. Going through and basically catching up on stuff that you wouldn’t otherwise do, but you’ll feel productive getting done. So what this does is that, at the end of the day, rather than feeling bad because you’re having a bad day and then beat yourself up because you’re having a bad day, you feel bad and then you acknowledge him.
Not feeling that great.
Then, you work on it, you correct it in terms of taking baby steps. At the end of the day,
sure, you might not have got your big stuff done, your big important task for your business, but you’ve cleared up all this other stuff and you’ve made progress in the right direction. So at the end of the day, you’re going to feel a lot better about yourself, and you can start the next day fresh with that positive feeling.
Whereas if you’re really off your game, and then you try to force it, and you just try to keep going and you can’t. Then, you can just start beating yourself up, and that can create a cycle where you feel guilty, you feel shameful that you can’t focus or you can’t change your mood, and then it gets worse and worse.
Now, on the other side of things, we have kind of the, I call it the Tony Robbins attitude of “You can do it. You can always change your state, you can always put yourself in whatever mood you want,” and yes there is some truth to this, but not all the time. And I believe that this attitude of anything is possible, you can have full control of your mind. I think I’ll like the Tony Robbins attitude, it’s inspiring and it’s empowering at times, but it’s also disempowering because if you believe that you can always take control and that everyone like these gurus are always perfect, then when you have bad days, they get worse because you create the shame cycle. You feel guilty that you have a bad day, and then it makes you doubt your ability to maybe be an entrepreneur or be successful because you say, “I’m having these bad days, I can’t control myself, it must mean that i meant to be a failure or I can’t do it.”
And that’s BS. Everyone has these kind of days. These guru people have these days. And if you’re a creative people or a creative person, which none of these gurus are, they’re not creators. You’re especially prone to ups and downs, because we’re hard on ourselves.
We judge our work and we demand perfection from ourselves. And so, it’s natural, you’re going to be self-critical, as natural you’re going to have ups and downs. And accepting that, getting rid of the shame and just making the most of those days, for me, has been really powerful with, basically just overall being more productive and staying focused.
So where before, one really bad day might spiral into two or three, where just nothing would get done. Now, I can have a bad day which will sort of, that turn into a chore day.
At the end of the day, I’ll have a clean apartment, I’ll have caught up on some tax documents or accounting, and I won’t feel so bad. Or in the day, maybe hang out with friends, sort of boost my mood before the next day, and rather than have lost two or three days because of a down period, I end up having one kind of admin day where I catch up on chores and stuff. And then the next day, feel great again and start over.
So that’s my advice. If you’re feeling like you’re off on a certain day, that it’s not right for you, maybe got a really bad setback from a client or something bad comes up, accept it. Accept that, hey this is how you’re going to feel for a bit, make the most of it and start doing something else, whether it’s admin work or some chores, or going to the gym, going to exercise, and that will actually turn around your whole day and you’ll be getting stuff done and being productive. Lots of positive benefits.
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